Westminster Education Forum

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Next steps for the Further Education sector in England - governance and finances, enhancing provision, and priorities for the FE White Paper

October 2020

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examining key current issues and priorities going forward for further education in England.

It is bringing together key stakeholders and policy makers, with the DfE currently drafting a White Paper for further education.

The conference will also be an opportunity to discuss

The discussion at a glance:

  • the Report of the independent review of college financial oversight conducted by Dame Mary Ney which recommends:
    • nurturing colleges on an individual basis - a shift from the current approach, to spot early signs of weakness in college finances
    • stronger and more proactive relationships - to be built with colleges from the start of this terms
    • introduction of new whistleblowing arrangements
  • COVID-19 - the experience and impact of the pandemic for colleges, immediate implications and priorities, and what can be learned and applied going forward
  • capital investment in the FE sector - priorities for the future
  • financial sustainability - and collaboration between colleges and the impact of mergers and interventions
  • managing change - restructuring colleges, the future of the merger process and supporting the FE workforce
  • decision-making - the autonomy that colleges have on decisions relating to tackling local skills gaps and the qualifications that they choose to offer
  • preparing for the future - FE and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • FE and society - positioning colleges at the centre of their communities, and asserting their role in addressing local and national skills gaps and promoting lifelong learning

The discussion in detail:

The COVID-19 crisis

  • how colleges have adapted - maintaining provision during the pandemic
  • future delivery of teaching - with a potential move to more online or blended learning
  • economic impact - the broader national industrial strategy and future skills gaps and in assisting young people in gaining employment
  • international students - potential implications of the likely reduction in numbers, particularly in the short term
  • T Levels - initial implementation, with some colleges choosing to pause their implementation this September, and others now teaching the new qualifications
  • The future role of FE colleges in the provision of level 3 qualifications for adults under government plans for a ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ through the National Skills Fund

Finance and collaboration

  • financial resilience and quality - the government approach to supporting colleges and intervening to support improvement
  • use of increased funding - how new investment by government is being used by colleges, and how to maximise its impact going forward
  • collaboration - ways that colleges are effectively working together, particularly in overcoming funding pressures and to improve provision
  • financial planning - in light of capital investment commitments by the Government, how colleges can develop effective plans to ensure that the money is spent effectively

Mergers and oversight

  • college governance - potential models, with suggestions that some colleges might be brought under state control
  • oversight measures - designed to improve the sustainability of the sector, with discussion on how colleges are adapting
  • mergers - the future of the merger process and whether structural changes resulting from area reviews have led to a more robust and sustainable college sector and improved learning experience
  • FE Commissioner actions - assessing steps taken, such as structure and prospects appraisals (SPAs), in evaluating merger proposals and what can be learnt from the initial area review process


  • Skills and support - priorities for supporting the FE workforce and ensuring appropriate levels of expertise
  • recruitment and retention of future leaders

Contribution to the community and local economy

  • colleges as anchor institutions for their local communities - how to cement their position, with Government recently urging colleges to engage with the £3.6bn Towns Fund in their local area
  • Institutes of Technology - their development to deliver technical education, with the second wave of competition launching later in the year aiming to ensure they cover all parts of England
  • meeting local need - the development of specialist colleges to meet the needs of local economies and what local communities and employers should be able to expect from colleges
  • local business engagement - strategies for improving connections and collaboration between colleges and local businesses
  • the levelling up policy agenda - the role colleges can play in tackling regional inequalities and improving local productivity through providing an effective lifelong learning service
  • FE colleges and HE - developing the relationship, including the future balance of funding and discussion on which sector should be providing which courses

A scan of key developments:

  • Major expansion of post-18 education and training to level up and prepare workers for post-COVID economy ­- a Lifetime Skills Guarantee through the National Skills Fund with free college lessons for adults without A Levels
  • FE White Paper - expected publication by the Department for Education, with a focus on funding, skills and qualifications, institutional autonomy, developing a nationally collaborative but regionally focussed approach to FE across England, the workforce and careers
  • Colleges to receive £200 million to transform their buildings - the recent announcement that £200m will be brought forward for urgent repairs in 2020/21
  • the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs - including the announcement of £111m in funding for traineeships
  • Multi-million-pound fund to boost standards across the FE sector - government commitment to funding for the sector with the aim of strengthening leadership and governance across FE through:
    • introduction of the College collaboration fund (CCF) to support colleges working together to boost the quality of education and training on offer
    • investment in tailored CPD for college leaders and governors across a range of areas
  • Budget 2020 - which included commitments from Government including:
    • the introduction of a £600m-a-year National Skills Fund
    • a commitment of £1.8bn for capital investment in the FE estate,

The agenda:

  • An overview of the current FE landscape
  • Where will the DfE white paper take the college and FE sector?
  • Improving the oversight of colleges and adapting to the new insolvency regime - mergers, restructuring and sources of funding
  • Understanding the context for the White Paper
  • Further education and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Enhancing FE provision in colleges - curriculum, online delivery, careers advice, links with employers, routes into HE, and learning from the impact of the pandemic
  • The College of the Future - latest findings from the Independent Commission

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from the Department for Education; the Cabinet Office; the National Audit Office; the DCMS; the Department for International Trade; Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service; the Home Office; the Ministry of Justice; and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from ACL Essex; Ascentis; Babcock Technical Academy; Cambridge Assessment International Education; Canterbury Christ Church University; CITB; Construction Industry Training Board; Copyright Licensing Agency; D2N2 LEP; Durham University; East Sussex College Group; Emsi; Eversheds Sutherland (International); Hammersmith Society; KPMG; Mills & Reeve; National Deaf Children's Society; NCG; Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach; NOCN Group; North East LEP; North Lincolnshire Council; Office of the Independent Adjudicator; Ofqual; Sheffield Hallam University; Stockton Riverside College; Stone King; Student Loans Company; Sussex Learning Network; The Open University; UAL Awarding Body; University for the Creative Arts and Westminster Kingsway College.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles